Needs of Older Youth During COVID-19
As COVID-19 continues, we must cater to the needs of older youth in foster care and kinship care who rely on us to ensure their well-being.
“These are young people who have already lost so much—they are no longer with their birth families, they’ve been uprooted from familiar homes and neighborhoods, they’ve lost touch with friends along the way. We can’t fail them. We must do better on their behalf and act decisively and compassionately to ensure they weather this pandemic,” says Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Center for Systems Innovation.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has shared the following needs for youth in care:
- Meet immediate, basic needs for housing, food and other supports. Now is the time to leverage state policies and resources and maximize federal resources and opportunities under the Family First Act and the Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood to support all young people over 18 who exited foster care in meeting their basic needs until at least age 23 during this crisis. These resources and policies should include ensuring young people’s access to stimulus checks, direct stipends through independent living, room and board assistance and health care through Medicaid.
- Establish a moratorium on youth aging out of foster care for at least six months beyond the end of the immediate crisis. Of the nearly 20,000 young people who leave foster care each year without a permanent family, 28% experience homelessness.
- Allow older youth to enter or reenter extended foster care. All young people over 18 who are in or have left foster care should be able to remain or reenter regardless of current state and federal criteria or eligibility. This means suspending school and work eligibility criteria.
- Enable older foster youth to appoint their own next of kin for medical issues. Given anticipated health emergencies during this pandemic, young people 18 and older who have aged out of foster care or who have chosen extended foster care should be able to appoint their own next of kin of any relation (family or otherwise).
- Provide financial support to medically fragile older foster youth. Social Security benefits should be paid directly to the young person.
- Provide immediate health care coverage to all young people with foster care experience. Medical debt can lead to long-term financial challenges. It is critical that young people know they can seek the medical attention they need and not have to worry about financial ruin.
- Increase financial assistance and resources for expectant and parenting youth. Young parents and those expecting must have access to appropriate health care for themselves and their children to ensure their well-being.
All youth need people on whom they can depend to help them navigate through life, including in times of crisis. Child welfare advocates, practitioners and policymakers must put forth an effort to help youth, families and communities and improve policies to help youth thrive.